Antidepressants and alcohol

Information leaflets often warn depressive patients that alcohol consumption should be avoided during using antidepressants. However, these recommendations are made without any explanation. Reasons why such combination should be avoided are detailed considered in this review.

It should be understood that alcohol and antidepressants work in the brain and have a significant impact on emotional balance.

Antidepressants may cause complex behavioral effects, especially when the dose increases or decreases. Alcohol has a number of psychomotor and cognitive effects depending on the person’s health and the amount of alcohol consumed.

Patients should avoid alcohol when using antidepressants. A striking finding is that people do not always follow this recommendation. Cases when patients using antidepressants continue to consume alcohol in small or large amounts repeatedly occur in clinical practice.

Due to aggregate pharmacovigilance data, as well as information obtained from patients and health care providers, antidepressants interaction with alcohol was confirmed.

Here is a list of “side effects” of antidepressants used with alcohol:

  • anger and blackout;
  • impairment of liver function;
  • sexual indiscretions;
  • memory problems;
  • mood changes;
  • violation of social norms;
  • attempts to harm yourself;
  • deterioration of hangover and other alcohol side effects;
  • lack of restraint “disinhibition” after small doses of alcohol.

Alcohol in combination with some antidepressants causes a dangerous blood pressure jump and other severe side effects. If the depressed patient has problems with function of the cardiovascular system, it is necessary to completely abandon or minimize alcohol consumption.

Overdose is another unpleasant consequence of mixing antidepressants and alcohol. Overdose may lead to very severe side effects and the patient’s hospitalization.

If simultaneous use of antidepressants and alcohol causes side effects, do not stop the depression treatment. It is necessary to control alcohol cravings. Antidepressants should be used continuously. Stopping and starting an antidepressant drug can make the depression symptoms more severe.

Depressive patients concerned about the alcohol use can take advantage of one of the programs to overcome alcohol abuse. For example, participants of groups “Anonymous Alcoholics” achieve good results in fighting alcoholism.

Most depressed patients use alcohol to alleviate their problems. However, alcohol is able not only to change the antidepressants effect, but also to worsen depression.

Use of some antidepressants may cause side effects associated with the alcohol consumption. During clinical trials, as well as after the start of sales of the following antidepressants, the following side effects were reported:

  • alcohol abuse – when using Paroxetine (Paxil or Pexeva);
  • alcohol intolerance – when using Citalopram (Celexa or Cipramil).

It should be noted that such side effects occur rarely or very rarely. Alcohol intolerance can help overcome alcohol cravings.

After completing a course of the depression treatment, the patient may experience symptoms of antidepressant withdrawal. Alcohol should not be used to relieve these symptoms.